Hybrid Working – The Way Forward in 2021

Author: Chris Robinson | Date: 09/12/2020

Any chance you feel as if you’re in a constant state of the Hokey Cokey this year? Many organisations will be able to relate to the changing Government guidelines that one minute they can open their doors to customers and employees, then, despite their best efforts, have to close again.   

2020 has been tumultuous for many and the need to adapt our businesses and services continues, unabated as we hope and wait for the Covid-19 vaccinations to quickly reach people across the globe. Realistically, and at a minimum, the early part of 2021 will be no different from what we are experiencing now. So, what can companies and contact centres do to deliver a seamless customer experience and a sound working environment for agents despite the challenges they face?  

A great CX starts with great EX – your agents matter  

With that in mind let’s start with how you can help your contact centre managers and agents continue to adapt to the pressures of hybrid working. When we say hybrid, we anticipate that either your employees are remote most of the time but that realistically you’re having to rotate people in and out of the office or contact centre at regular periods.  

We’ve previously discussed providing the best tools for the job. Hopefully, you’ve addressed the fundamentals – such as easy, secure login, regardless of location – so agents aren’t wasting half their mornings fighting with IT security simply to get on to their scripts. So, then it’s looking at what will help them to do their job, to the best of their abilities, wherever they are. AI and voice analytics are transforming how businesses operate.   

Take this a step further and conversational analytics will not only help you to analyse the vocabulary and sentiment in your best agents but will also help you to pick up on where new starters are struggling too. This is so important when you’re unable to stroll around your call centre and listen to conversations taking place as you used to. Plus, it’s a far more practical and informative way of keeping your finger on the pulse.  

Scripting and analytics help to guide agent conversations and with this informative data, your team will be able to understand what makes a seamless journey for the customer. And better conversations lead to a better experience for both parties. Here’s a reminder of why conversational analytics (CA) is so important for your agents:  

  • The intuitive way CA works means your agents require less training or can move on to different campaigns without spending hours reading reams of training manuals.  
  • Ability to handle calls and resolve them faster than before, which means your agent’s experience and job satisfaction will be higher and your cost per call is kept in control.  
  • Your agents can focus on the conversation, rather than the process which means both agent and customer have a better experience. That means your staff retention improves dramatically.  
  • By providing you with actionable insights formed into one report, it will allow you to motivate your agents in the right directions and stimulate continuous improvement.  

More automation, less repetition

Understandably some days feel like Groundhog Day – especially this year with rolling lockdowns. As business owners and contact centre managers, it’s our duty to make work more productive, less repetitive and, ideally, rewarding. Automating the intensive process of monitoring agent-customer interactions at scale can help to highlight which agents might need further training and on what exactly. Also, there are repetitive call centre tasks such as listening to agents calls and manually evaluating agent’s performance or screening the calls for quality assurance (QA), that can be automated to make the role more enjoyable.   

Given automation is a proven way to reduce attrition investing in automation makes even more sense when you look at the numbers. According to Response Design Corporation call centres replace approximately 26% of their agents each year and a report from CIPD claims that the average cost for replacing call centre staff is £6,125. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise that re-hiring and training 26% of your workforce on an annual basis is pretty expensive! So, doing anything to retain your great performers is more than worthwhile.  

Give your agents a virtual hug  

While it’s been tricky with agents working remotely during this time – finding ways to offer feedback and being accessible to your team is more important than ever to maintaining morale and motivation. We all know that hitting the phones whether that’s cold calling, handling customer complaints or processing insurance claims, can leave agents feeling pretty dejected at times. Despite the challenges and stresses this year it’s important to be a good listener and encourage two-way conversations across your team. Remember, rewards and initiatives tap into our basic human need and incentivising great performance can help to keep agents motivated.  

Also, it’s hard to keep an eye on people when they’re not sat right in front of you. Just as it’s important to drive motivation it’s also critical that people take breaks. Ensuring that employees get time away from screens and calls will help to keep all engagements in perspective.  

Drive call centre efficiency  

As we move forward to 2021 take time to review what is working or not for your agents – and your customers. There are lots of simple ways to drive call centre efficiencies in your business and across your workforce, especially for contact centre agents. None of these is new or rocket science:  

  • Remove the dull – we all know there are boring tasks to do, no matter what work you’re in but quite often people will procrastinate and put the boring stuff off to last. It may be boring but it’s still important, try to remove unnecessary paper trails.  
  • Emails and messages – reduce the interruptions and keep the ‘noise’ traffic to a minimum  
  • Break it up – introduce regular breaks and encourage some exercise to re-energise both the body and mind  
  • Focus and purpose – create targets and share successes to encourage effective and motivated agents  
  • Enable flexible working – especially in the current climate, with many having to remote work or with others handling critical support in call centres, allowing flexible working will help boost agents’ well-being.  

Delivering seamless CX  

The chances are that if you get the majority of things right with your agents then your customer experience will naturally transform. But you do need to build a fully-rounded understanding of the conversations your agents and customers are having. Our conversational analytics provides you with the ability to understand and even search through those conversations in minutes without having to listen to calls themselves. The combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and voice analytics means you can recognise sentiment and keywords (positive or negative) to gain a better understanding and increase greater efficiencies across the business. That information can enable you to implement new ways for customers to self-serve, make changes to online information and update customers prior to them contacting you. Thus, enabling your business to really drive down the number of customer contacts and lift the pressure placed on your agents, all while enhancing your CX and reaching that goal of driving greater efficiencies.  

There’s no doubt that we have reached a pivotal point in history and the workplace as we’ve known it for decades has transformed for good. So, to have people’s mindsets. They’ve broken through the barriers of presenteeism that have plagued workers and businesses have found themselves with no choice but to trust that their employees will continue to work effectively from home. Now that the door has been open few are going to want it closed. Hybrid working will become part of that new normal and businesses need to adopt the right technology and tools to meet this employee need. If not, then you may find yourself missing out on the skills and the knowledge of the future to help your organisation to continually evolve and stay competitive.